Macron Breaks Taboo, Spain Makes Gibraltar Demands

Emmanuel Macron opens the door to farm subsidy cuts. Spain wants power over Gibraltar’s airport.

Emmanuel Macron touched one third rail of French politics and didn’t die: labor reform. Now he is grabbing the other: agriculture.

French farmers rely heavily on EU agricultural subsidies and are generally less innovative (defenders would say more traditional) than their peers in Germany and the Netherlands, the two largest exporters of agricultural goods in Europe.

Macron has already opened the door to subsidy reform, arguing that, due to Brexit, cuts are inevitable.

At the same time, he has promised €5 billion in public investments to kickstart a “cultural revolution” in the sector.

That may not be enough to convince skeptical farmers while cutting EU subsidies will run into opposition from Italy, Poland and Spain. But it’s a start.

Spain sets out Gibraltar demands

Spain wants joint management of Gibraltar’s airport and closer cooperation to tackle tax fraud and tobacco smuggling, the country’s foreign minister, Alfonso Dastis, has told the Financial Times.

The rest of the EU has given Spain a specific veto over Britain’s exit deal, but Dastis said he would not abuse this to push for restored Spanish sovereignty over the peninsula.

Spain ceded Gibraltar to the United Kingdom in 1713. It still claims the territory and argues that Britain has illegally occupied the isthmus which connects the Rock with the Spanish mainland and on which Gibraltar’s airport is built.

Support for Catalan independence falls

More Catalans now want to remain Spanish than become independent, the regional government’s latest survey has found. (English summary here.)

Whereas almost 49 percent of Catalans favored independence in October, against 44 percent who opposed it, the percentages are now 41 and 54, respectively.

Last year’s failed independence bid, which led to Spain suspending Catalan autonomy, probably explains the shift.

When also given the option of becoming a federal state inside Spain or giving up autonomy, the share of Catalans who prefer independence falls to 33 percent. 20 percent support federalization as an alternative, 36 percent are content with the status quo and 7 percent feel the region has too much self-government.

The point of constitutional monarchy

Quick thought on monarchy after Catalan officials refused to meet with King Felipe VI at the Mobile World Congress technology fair in Barcelona this weekend: The point of constitutional monarchy, and the reason constitutional monarchies (Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, Sweden) are among the politically most stable countries in the world is that it depoliticizes the head of state.

Felipe forgot that when he sided with a conservative government in Madrid against the wishes of half the people of Catalonia.

Five Stars’ southern comfort

Reuters reports that Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement feeds off anger in the backward south of the country. One poll shows it winning twice as much support as any other party in what the Italians call the Mezzogiorno.

The Five Star party’s strong anti-corruption message and its promise of universal income support for the poor strike a chord among millions in southern Italy, where political graft and organized crime are endemic and work is scarce.

Italy’s north-south divide has worsened in recent years. Whereas northern Italy is as wealthy as Austria, Germany and the Netherlands, the south is as poor as Greece.